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This is the first in a series of posts reposting content from "Our Lenten Collage," in which my cell at the time blogged our way through the Lenten season of 2009.


Prayer and Scripture

Rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil.Joel 2:13
That's one of the Scripture passages assigned as a possible call to worship during Lent for morning prayer in the Daily Office. Now, the Daily Office is not really designed for solitary prayer; it's a call-and-response sort of thing, and reading it one's just overwhelmed by all the text on one's screen. But I knew I wanted a Lenten devotion consisting of a mixture of Scripture and prayer (I thought about going with just prayer and praying the rosary, but I can't actually find my rosary), so I modified it to my own purposes. A lot of the prayers I kept the same, just with the call-and-response transitions taken out. (Also, the singing and canticles and a bunch of stuff. It's a lot shorter.) For the most part, these are prayers I already have memorized, as they're part of the Episcopal mass.

I begin with my own personal prayer, which is a modified form of theGloria Patri doxology followed by a modified form of a passage from the Tao Te Ching, followed by the first stanza of Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky." This is my default prayer, the one I pray before Church on Sunday morning or when I get back to my pew after receiving the Eucharist. I pray it because it allows an opening for non-traditional imagery (including feminine God the Mother imagery) and gives a space for God to fill without being quite so demanding as to what God should fill it with.

Next is the Confession of Sin:

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.
Then I read the Psalms assigned for the day in the Daily Office (for both morning and evening prayer).

Then I pray a Hail Mary:

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.
That's thrown in there for the heck of it, and because I'm a bad Episcopalian who accepts the intercession of Saints even though that's against official Anglican doctrine. (Somehow I doubt anyone cares.)

Then there's the Old Testament reading, an Epistle reading, and a Gospel reading. Starting today, a period of silent contemplation follows the readings--I didn't think to do this yesterday (or Saturday when I did a trial run of this devotion) and I think it really lacked for it. I take the readings from this online Lectionary, and having been doing them in my real-world, physical New American (i.e., Roman Catholic) Bible.

Today's readings were Psalm 37, Deuteronomy 7:6-11 (I read 1-11 to catch up), Titus 1:1-16, and John 1:35-42 (again, I read 1-42). The Old Testament readings focused on the concept of land (particularly Israel) and the sovereignty thereof, and the way it passes from the just to unjust and back again. Obviously, this has a lot to speak the modern-day situation in the Middle East, and the violence there right now, but I also thought about how we care for the Earth more generally, and the need for conservation.

The New Testament readings presented a very different picture. In the epistle, Saint Titus is in Crete appointing presbyters in order to extend the Church. (I just passed over St. Paul's curious prejudice against Cretans.) And in St. John's Gospel, the Messiah, the figurehead of Israel's sovereignty, has arrived. The message, for me, was one of hope: peace and healing can come to the Earth, if we join together in sisterhood and brotherhood.

The Apostle's Creed follows:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
This is a prayer I do not have memorized, for it is the (longer) Nicene Creed which is used at the Eucharist. The Apostle's Creed is the creed of baptism as well as that of the Daily Office, so perhaps it is appropriate that I re-examine it as the two-year anniversary of my own baptism approaches. There are several differences between the two creeds, but the most strikely is undoubtedly that the Apostle's says "I" where the Nicene says "we." There's something starker, less compromising about that "I," even when I'd already decided two years ago that I was able to say it, within the theologically context of an Episcopal ceremony and the Episcopal Church which its theologically liberal zeitgeist, in an intellectually honest way. There's something about the creed's insistence on framing religious commitment in terms of cold propositional beliefs held by a single individual which is confrontational, even if one interprets it liberally as metaphorical. I look forward to my Lenten struggle with the prayer.

And I conclude with the Our Father (I'm going to assume you all know the words to that one), praying to God in the words Jesus gave us (more or less). I make the sign of the cross and then, my Lenten devotion completed, get up to complete my day.

In all, it probably takes about five to ten minutes, which is a lot quicker than it took to write this.


bryce said...

Thanks for laying it all out. This looks like a great practice for lent. I look forward to hearing more about how this practice is working into you.

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"This is my prayer: that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best."
-- St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians 1:9-10

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